I decided to go against feelings I needed to be getting a leaflet together for local campaigning. It meant getting up early enough to join the coach leaving central Birmingham at 7.00am. I saw there was a train into Moor Street Station, right next to the rendezvous, at 6.38 from my local station, The Hawthornes (right behind the West Bromwich Stadium.). Amazingly the train was exactly on time. How long can we expect this to continue now the the new franchise, London Midland, has taken over from Central Trains?
So onto Westminster’s Central Hall, the venue for many a Sunday School trip from Grange Park Methodist Church in Enfield, North London when I was little.
Today there were delegates from across the globe, together with familiar faces in the fight against the globalisation which is bringing war in its wake. Tony Benn began low key since he, like us, wanted to hear other people’s experiences. Ibraham Mousawi, editor of al-Intiqab did not disappoint. He made it clear how vilified groups like Hezbollah were movements of people, continually misrepresented by media and politicians. Their crime was to stand up against the military might of the Israeli army invading the Lebanon. He made it clear that in his view no religion was worth supporting if it wasn’t first and foremost humanitarian. Hassan Juma of the Iraqi Oil Workers’ Union put very clearly the situation where his members could not collectively protect their interests, or those of the Iraqi people, against the international onslaught which was taking away their resources. George Galloway made a vigorous speech pressing the continuing dangers of invading Iran.
See videos of speeches.
In the afternoon speakers from various European countries as well as Korea, Canada and the United States amplified the same story. Country after country spoke of the U.S. using their territory to build bases under the guise of a so-called “war on terror”. In each case governments were caving in and allowing this to happen while the cast majority opposed it. Even in Italy post Berlusconi a government with MPs who had declared themselves as socialists were allowing the expansion of bases around Vicenza. An invitation was given to attend a 3 day mobilisation, including workshops, debates and a mass demonstration between 14th and 16th December.
Ivona Novometska of the Czech “No bases” campaign described how people were fighting back on deals made by former administrations in great secrecy and now bing implemented by a right wing government. Many local mayors had joined in the fight to protect the areas they represented. One such was Mayor Neoral from the Czech League of Mayors who spoke with Ivona translating. A Polish delegate confirmed his support and that a similar struggle was going on in Poland. Germany, France, Greece and Ireland have presidents speaking of peace while colluding with the U.S., Sarkozy vying to be the new Tony Blair. As one delegate reminded us it was Berthold Brecht who said “when politicians speak of peace, it is time to take cover.”
Nancy Romer, US Labour Against the War spoke of the huge dislike of the Iraq conflict by the people. She touched on Blackwater, but very little else was said about the privatisation of the conflict and the involvement of mercenaries
There was some optimism expressed with the view that Blair had to go early with his support for the Lebanon invasion as catalyst, and there was a loud cheer when the departure of the Australian leader because of his deployment of troops in the Middle East.
The wider picture emerging is that it is the needs of global capitalism demanding domination of oil and other resources. In 1975 Kissinger had announced the need for the U.S. and western governments to take control of Middle Eastern reserves and it is this not only drives an unending war, but contributes to the global warming which is also causing major catastrophe.
Those in the front line are the poor and it is on them that war is directed.